Once I began talking about my upcoming move I couldn’t believe how much interest there was in my sharing the experience about finding my apartment, the design process and overall inquiries on what it is like moving in New York City. The interest was so great that I decided to crowdsource your questions and today I am answering all of them!
Questions about My New Apartment:
How did you find your new place? StreetEasy? Broker? Friends? How did you decide yours was “the one”?
Yes I found my place on StreetEasy which is my go-to for apartment hunting. There was a broker involved but the apartment was a no fee apartment. No fee apartments have become more frequent during the pandemic to move inventory but many can and still are charging broker fees which has always been commonplace in New York City.
I generally know in the first 30 seconds of seeing a place whether it could work for me. It’s an intuition and also experience having lived in NYC for nearly 10 years. I had the building I’m moving into on my radar for a while and after I found out from someone living in it that they really liked management, the super and the facilities, I made the decision to apply. My only trepidation was that whether I would regret signing a lease 6 weeks before moving should something else I like come on the market but thankfully that hasn’t happened (I continue to look at listings that meet my criteria) so I’m glad I trusted my instincts.
How many places did you see before you picked this one?
I’ve been looking since January as I had known I was going to need to find a place by end of May following the sale of my current apartment. Having lived in the neighborhood for over three years now I had a good sense of the buildings that looked like they’d fit my criteria. Over the course of my hunt in 2020 I’d say I probably looked at between 8 and 10 units. Following the pandemic my lease had been extended past my original move date of late May 2020.
How long had you lived at your current apartment?
Just over two years.
Know apartment hunting in NYC always comes with tradeoffs – how did you decide which features were more or less important to you? Did you have non-negotiables?
Oh man, do they! So much compromise often. For me non-negotiables were good natural light, a dishwasher, laundry in the building and good closet space.
Why did you have to move?
I was subletting my apartment from the owner and he decided to sell it. My next door neighbors bought it and are combining the two units into a 2 bedroom apartment.
Are you staying in Brooklyn?
I am! I am staying in my current neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights.
Is your new place a studio or 1 bedroom?
A studio! As I am saving up to buy a place I decided not to pay more to live in a one bedroom during this time. (Also accounting for not knowing how my income will continue to be affected given the pandemic.) I decided that I’d prefer a smaller space now in order to stay in my neighborhood that I love so much.
What are you most excited for about your new place?
That it’s in Brooklyn Heights still and all the finishes. It was re-done a few years ago so has really nice finishes and fits with my style.
What’s your favorite feature of your new place?
The marble bathroom and the herringbone floors!
Can we get a before and after tour of your space?
Yes! I’ll be doing lots of blog posts that document the before and afters.
How are you downsizing/deciding what items to get rid of before moving?
As my new place is a bit smaller than what I have now and will no longer have basement storage accessible, I will be getting off-site storage to hold onto things I don’t need right now but don’t want to part with. I have also sent a lot of clothes into ThredUp and am dropping a lot of things off at a donation center.
Do you have air conditioning in your new place?
Yes! This is a must. (As I write this it is 95 degrees out). Although it is a window unit like most apartments in NYC. One day I dream of having central air!
Were you able to get a pretty good deal given the pandemic?
LOL. “Deals” do not exist in real estate in NYC as far as I am concerned. Rental prices are exorbitant and remain too expensive. And while inventory has ballooned during the pandemic, so many units are in desperate need of updating. Yet demand has always been there so landlords get away with charging excessive prices and have previously never had to make many updates. You often do not get what you pay for here in the city. In my experience searching this summer, landlords were barely making concessions on rent prices despite increased inventory. It’ll be interesting to see how things progress for the rest of the year. I will be paying what I pay now for my new unit for a nice yet smaller place.
Will you be sharing your experience and process of designing the new place?
You bet! I heard you guys loud and clear on Instagram and in my recent reader survey that you really want to see this process so I plan to deliver! I’m also just so excited to be working with professionals that are lending me their talents. Havenly is doing a design and layout concept for me (I am so excited about the initial concepts we’re working off of! I am working with Karen Richani who got my style and vision pretty instantly. You can follow her on Instagram here), my friend Ann and her business partner at Proper Shoppe are taking on art sourcing and styling for me and Neat Method is helping me to maximize the space in my kitchen and closets. Interior design is not a strong suite of mine so I’m looking forward to having some expertise.
How did you find the people helping you design your new space? Are they working with things you already have?
I met the founder of Havenly at an event last year and loved her! They had offered to help me with my space whenever I moved so I’m looking forward to finally experiencing their service that I’ve heard such good things about. My friend Ann of Proper Shoppe – she and I went to high school together! She’s a trained interior designer and started her own business last year. I’m already SO impressed at how quickly she understood what I am trying to achieve and I love her expertise in art. She’s working to source art from French and Brooklyn artists so that I can support my favorite communities. Finally, Neat Method reached out to me a while back and I started following them on Instagram and loved their work. I’m now working with Corrin for my new space!
Where are you sourcing inspiration from for your new place? What’s your home decor style?
The inspiration is to design a Parisian style apartment in Brooklyn. I love the feel of airy, bright + slightly glam Parisian apartments so I’m hoping to achieve that in my new space. I’ve never really had a design concept before for an apartment I’ve lived in rather just picked stuff I liked and made it work. I’m excited to see the whole process come together now that there’s a clear vision. You can get a sense of my interior style here.
I’ve also recently started following a lot of interior design accounts on Instagram whose style or work I like. These include eyeswoon, Josh Young Design, Erin Kestenbaum, Maison Trouvaille, ferm Living (they make my beloved champagne saucers!), apt lafayette Paris and Studio McGee. As I see pieces, vibes, color palettes, etc. that I like I save them to a Home Inspo board on Instagram.
What’s the budget you have for designing and working with professionals?
I’m still working on determining where I’ll be spending my money on my new place. I am willing to part with certain pieces in order to achieve the Parisian apartment vibe and to make the new space feel as functional as possible but I also always have to keep in mind my investments given I am a renter. For the pros I have enlisted, I am working on trade programs with them meaning they are offering me their services (services, not goods) in exchange for my sharing my experience.
How do you plan to organize your closet and kitchen?
SO much more to come on this front after I work with Neat Method – I am excited to see what solutions Corrin proposes! I also still swear by a lot of things I learned from Marie Kondo.
Any tips for small space living?
I have lots of ideas following years of apartment living! Check out this blog post.
Any tips on how to choose a couch for a new space?
Decide on an overall look and feel and then research fabrics based on whether you have kids or pets or it’ll just be you. And measure carefully to ensure it won’t overcrowd your space. I have a velvet couch from Interior Define and absolutely love it.
Where are you shopping from for the new place? Any favorite brands / sites?
Your usual suspects of Crate & Barrel and CB2, West Elm, Williams Sonoma Home and Pottery Barn. Also Anthropologie’s home line.
How are you feeling about the move? Are you stressed?
Definitely! A move by yourself is a lot to handle regardless of doing it in a pandemic or not. My to do list is VERY long right now but I’m putting a few things on my list each day to accomplish and working through the items as efficiently as possible. I am also grateful to have friends that have offered to help which – if I’m able to do so safely – I may take them up on it. I wrote about my shifting perspective about this move here in case you missed it.
Questions about Moving In / To New York City Right Now:
Are brokers fees no more in the city?
Yes and no. We had a moment of victory earlier this year but it was reserved by a judge. Read about it here.
Any resources for renters rights?
I highly recommend you familiarize yourself with NYC Tenants Rights. After an awful experience with a crooked landlord 8 years ago, I knew the NYC Tenants Right Handbook front and back and it has helped me immensely with future landlords that try and get away with shady – and often illegal- practices. Know your rights and know how to best protect yourself.
How did you know it was the right time for you to move to New York City?
I had a gut instinct that I was meant to do it. I loved living in San Francisco as a new college grad but I started coming to NYC for work more frequently. And kept extending my trips for the weekends. I fell in love with the city and felt called to try and live here. Nearly 10 years later, I still love this city and am grateful I followed my gut and my heart. You can read more about my time in NYC here.
Do apartments get cleaned and exterminated before you move in?
Yes all these should be taken care of before you get the keys.
You mentioned wanting to buy in Brooklyn before – do you have a timeline in mind for that?
I hope in the next few years. It’s an enormous goal for me to achieve by myself but I’ve been working towards it for a couple years now.
I will be very, very picky about whatever place I buy and thankfully already know a lot of the buildings in Brooklyn Heights so I’m familiar with the ones I am interested in. Given the economic impact of 2020, it will be interesting to see if the home sales market is affected in my neighborhood in particular which hasn’t seen any dips in home prices for decades and decades. I’ll be watching carefully.
How do you determine what’s worth storing for later when you have more space?
If I like it and want to have it eventually, I’ll be storing it. I’ve stored with MakeSpace in the past and will be doing so again. I love that they bring your belongings to you and pick them up + store them for you. You also can access photos of your stuff online.
Do you have recommendations on moving companies?
I’ve never loved a moving company rather tolerated mediocre service. This time I am using DUMBO movers having heard a few good things so I’ll report back following my move. For boxes, I am using Bin It who is working to properly sanitize these reusable moving bins that cut down on paper waste. They drop them off and pick them up which is a huge help.
How are you keeping safe moving during a pandemic?
I’ll be wearing a mask as will my movers. I will be packing my stuff myself to minimize their contact on my belongings and I’ll employ gloves and plenty of hand sanitizer. In the end, it gives me anxiety but I have to move so it is unavoidable at this point. Movers in the city are categorized as essential workers and they’ve been asked to adhere to strict safety measures for the health of their employees and their clients.
How did you view apartments during the pandemic?
Thankfully I ramped up my search just as Phase 3 began and in-person viewings were allowed. There is no way I would have felt comfortable signing an expensive lease not having seen a space in person. Pictures rarely depict NYC apartments accurately and while more landlords began employing videos, they were often poor quality that left you with more questions than answers. I definitely had a full crying session early June as I considered all my options of what to do next. In the end I am relieved that I decided to just find a new place and that I was able to see the handful of apartments I saw this summer in person so I could make an informed decision.
. . .
Thanks to everyone who sent in questions! Looking forward to sharing a lot more on my new space with you this year!
p.s. tips on moving to New York City and my thoughts on entering my 9th year in NYC.
Moving is universal and such a relatable subject no matter where you are!.
I am so glad you found a nice spot in your desired hood. I can’t wait to see your Parisian apartment vibe come to life. That window and floors and swoon over a marble bathroom!!!
Living in SF I so can empathize with the struggle of space, overprices rents, and the pain of moving.
Best of luck and cannot wait to see your before and after!!!!
So appreciate the good vibes, Sabrina!
I love this post so much! You truly did tackle all of our questions. I live in Chicago, but have always had a love of New York. It’s so fascinating hearing your perspective and tips on how intricate the apartment hunt and move can be in NYC. I can’t wait to read about all the fun to come with your new place. Best wishes for a safe and smooth move!
Thank you so much, Christine! Appreciate the kind words and glad you enjoyed the post!
So excited to follow along while you decorate your new space – praying for safety and smooth transitions for the actual move!
Thanks, Melanie!! Should hopefully be a fun process!